After a year of meetings, the Legislature’s Arctic Policy Commission is rolling out its strategy for the region.
The draft report is over 100 pages, and it offers recommendations on how to manage maritime commerce and resource development in the Arctic, how to improve emergency response, and how to include the state’s indigenous population in policy decisions.
Rep. Bob Herron, a Bethel Democrat who co-chaired the commission, says having an “Arctic thought process” puts the state on better footing with the federal government when it comes to having a say in policy for the region.
“We want to be in the center of all those decisions,” says Herron.
The Arctic Policy Commission’s work may have a more immediate influence on the state’s own policy. The report identified the lack of infrastructure as a key problem for the region, and Herron and his fellow co-chair, Sen. Lesil McGuire, each introduced legislation to address that last week. One bill would create a port authority for the Arctic, while the other would authorize the state to issue loans for projects like roads and harbors.
McGuire acknowledges that Arctic development will be expensive and difficult to afford given that the state is looking at a budget shortfall. Still, she sees it as a necessary investment.
“I think we’re going to have to start looking at it right now. We’re already behind,” says McGuire.
The Obama administration offered its own strategy for the Arctic region last week.
- A tsunami warning drill takes place once a year, and one village in Southeast has not forgotten the importance of being ready when disaster strikes.
- Nome turns into a bit of a carnival when the Iditarod winner mushes into town. For nearly a week, racers continue arriving before the banquet that officially concludes each year’s Iditarod.
- An M-44, which sprays predators with sodium cyanide, detonated on a teen and his dog earlier this month in Idaho. Now the family and others are petitioning the USDA to end its use of the devices.
- The Mental Health Trust Authority owns lands in Petersburg it wants to swap for Tongass National Forest acreage elsewhere in the region. Resulting timber sales would raise money for the Trust.